Mirror Lake

Snoqualmie Pass, Washington
Mirror Lake
Length : 3.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain : 880 ft.
Mirror Lake is a relatively easy hike near Snoqualmie Pass that will take you onto the Pacific Crest Trail and deliver you to an alpine lake with views of Tinkham Peak. Along the way, you will pass through lush forest, cross a couple of streams and pass by Cottonwood Lake. Given the minimal mileage and elevation required to reach Mirror Lake, you might expect it to be swarming with people, however it’s moderately trafficked compared with other hikes in the area. This is in large part due to it being East of Snoqualmie Pass and a long drive on a typically pothole ridden road, making it a little over an hour and half from Seattle.

The official trail is a 2.2 mile round trip, however, reaching the trailhead in an ordinary car isn’t feasible, given the extremely rough road with lots of rocks (I wouldn’t take my Subaru outback up it), so it should be considered a 3.2 mile round trip hike. Walk a half mile up the rough road and when the road takes a right, you will see a sign for the Mirror Lake Trail.

Note : Mirror Lake can also be accessed via the Pacific Crest Trail via the Windy Pass trailhead, turning this into a 6 mile hike.

Directions

Heading east on I-90 from Seattle, use exit 62 for Stampede Pass/Kachess Lake. At the end of the ramp, turn right at the stop sign onto Forest Road 54. After approximately a mile on this road, turn right off the paved road onto the gravel Lost Lake Road / Forest Road 5480.

Continue on this road for roughly 4.5 miles, then proceed straight on the middle road to stay on Forest Road 5480 and pass Lost Lake on your left. In roughly 2 more miles, the road becomes much more difficult and you should park your car here (as noted above, there is no real parking lot, but rather pull offs on the side of the road), unless you are equipped to drive the half mile up the treacherous road to the upper parking lot.

Parking

Assuming you don’t make it to the actual trailhead, where funnily enough, there is a nice level parking area, you will notice some small pullouts where you can park right before the road becomes treacherous for normal cars. Note, it’s not an obvious large parking lot, rather you will have to pull your car off to the side of the road on one of the many pullouts. No parking passes required.

Guidebooks & Maps

 

September 22, 2022 Trip Report

 
Type : hike
Length : 3.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain : 920 ft.
High Point : 4,200 ft.
I was driving back to Seattle from Manson and wanted to sneak a quick hike in on the way. I was originally thinking somewhere near Blewett Pass, but the air quality on the Eastern side of the Cascades wasn’t great, so I decided to pick a spot closer to Seattle. I landed on Mirror Lake as it was a quick hike not too far off I-90 and it has been many years since I last hiked it.
My Garmin Fenix GPS watch strap tore apart a couple of days prior, so I put my watch in my pocket during the hike and it somehow turned off part way through the hike. I eventually noticed, but didn’t capture the middle part of the hike to the end of the lake and back out to the Mirror Lake trail (I use my watch to generate the GPX track).
I didn’t remember the forest service road being that full of potholes, and it took a little longer than expected to reach the parking lot, or should I say small pull off were I parked my car. There were a couple of other cars parked there, and I wasted no time getting ready before starting the half mile walk up the rough road to the trailhead, as it was approaching evening and I didn’t want to be hiking out in the dark.
Road up to trailhead
Road up to trailhead
Right where the road swings to the right, I found the trailhead, as well as a nice parking lot - it’s funny they have a relatively large and level parking lot up here, rather than down where most people park (the road is rough and full of large rocks).
Start of the Mirror Lake Trail
Start of the Mirror Lake Trail
As I began hiking through the forest, I couldn’t help but notice how green everything was. I have only been living in the Lake Chelan area for a month, I have become accustomed to the drier climate. There was no shortage of greenery, with the evergreen trees, ferns and other assortment of green leafed shrubs.
Mirror Lake Trail
Mirror Lake Trail
I eventually saw Cottonwood Lake through the trees and veered off the trail to walk over to the edge of the lake. Cottonwood Lake is small, but pretty, and it was strange that I don’t recall the lake from prior hikes. It had been many years since I had hiked to Mirror Lake, but I had done the hike a number of times. I think most of the time I was hiking in from Windy Pass on Forest Service road 9070 and therefore didn’t use the Mirror Lake Trail and pass by Cottonwood Lake.
Cottonwood Lake off the Mirror Lake Trail
Cottonwood Lake off the Mirror Lake Trail
Ascending the Mirror Lake Trail
Ascending the Mirror Lake Trail
I continued along the trail after leaving Cottonwood Lake ascending gradually up through the forest. I reached an open area that looked very familiar, and sure enough, this was the intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail. I merged onto the PCT and caught my first glimpse of Mirror Lake. I decided to hike to the Southern end of the lake, so I could snap some photos of the lake with Tinkham Peak in the background.
Mirror Lake and Tinkham Peak
Mirror Lake and Tinkham Peak
There was one tent set up at the end of the lake, and there was a group of two with large backpacks looking for a place to make camp. I briefly spoke with them, and they were through hikers. Hopefully they were able to continue on with all the fires raging up farther North. Speaking of fires, although the smoke wasn’t bad, the mix of smoke and overcast weather made for rather dreary photos of the lake...
I followed the PCT over to where it descends down into the valley and then retraced my steps back along the PCT to the junction with Mirror Lake Trail, snapping some more photos along the way. It was at this point that I realized my watch had stopped tracking my hike, and I had to resrtart it.
Fall flower off the Pacific Crest Trail
Fall flower off the Pacific Crest Trail
Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake
Junction of the Pacific Crest Trail and Mirror Lake Trail
Junction of the Pacific Crest Trail and Mirror Lake Trail
I found a fallen log across a stream to walk across on the way back, but otherwise the hike back along the Mirror Lake Trail was uneventful. I didn't run into any more people and was able to make it back to the car before sunset.
Fallen log across stream
Fallen log across stream
All in all, a good way to stretch the legs and get in a quick hike on my drive from Lake Chelan to Seattle. Although it is quite a long and bumpy road to get to the hike.